Mumbai: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 36.2% of the votes in the Karnataka election--its highest ever since the party first contested state elections in 1983.

However, the Janata Dal-Secular (JDS) with 18.3% vote share and the Indian National Congress (38%)--a combined vote share of 56.3%--may get to form the government in the state.

The JD(S) vote-share of 18.3%, according to leads and results, was its lowest in nearly two decades since 1999 when it had a vote-share of 10.4%.

The Congress vote-share of 38% is the highest among the three parties and the highest the party got since the 1999 elections when it had a vote-share of 40.8%. Although the BJP vote share was 1.8 percentage points lower than the Congress’, the former is 26 seats ahead of the incumbent Congress in this election, according to leads and results.

This is because elections in India follow the first-past-the-post system: The candidate with the highest number of votes wins the seat.

In keeping with a 33-year-old trend, Kannadigas voted against the incumbent government in the 2018 elections as well, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of election data. From winning 122 seats to emerge as the single-largest party in 2013, the Congress lost 26 seats in the 2018 election, mainly to the BJP, according to leads.

In states where the BJP is in power, such as Maharashtra, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, the party, in its ascent to power, made inroads into the strongholds of regional parties, IndiaSpend previously reported (here, here and here).

Going against this trend, in Karnataka, the JD(S) has largely retained its influence, winning 37 seats--three fewer than the 40 it won in 2013.

This is, as we said, despite the party recording a vote-share of 18.3% in the 2018 elections, down from 20.2% in the 2013 elections.

Source: Election Commission Of India

The outcome of the 2018 assembly elections in Karnataka is similar to the results of 2004, when the BJP emerged as the single largest party but the Congress and the JD(S) formed a coalition government. The BJP, at the time, had recorded a vote-share of 28.3%--seven percentage points lower than the Congress.

Since 1985, whenever the Congress came to power with a full majority in the Karnataka assembly elections--in 1989, 1999 and 2013--the party had won the highest vote-share, which was at least 16 percentage points higher than the runners-up.

This does not appear to be the case with other parties. In 2008, when the BJP won a majority and formed the government, it won 110 seats with the second-highest vote-share.

When the JD(S) had formed the government with a full majority after winning the state elections in 1994 with 115 seats, the party could do so with a vote-share of 33%--six percentage points higher than the Congress (27%).

Update: The story has been updated to reflect the parties' vote shares at the end of counting for 222 seats which voted on May 12, 2018.

(Saldanha is an assistant editor, and Salve and Mallapur are analysts with IndiaSpend.)

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